Can You Run Out of Ideas

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Feature image from LOLA GUERRERA

Pinterest teaches us, if nothing else, that there are plenty of ideas to be had and not all of them need to be life changing.

When I first begun writing I clung desperately to any tiny morsels of inspiration that came my way.  I cut out favourite sentences from paragraphs I was going to discard, hoping to save them and use them again in another story.  At best I thought my creativity was a statistical likelihood given how much time I spend trying, at worst a complete fluke.  I thought I would only have a finite number of good ideas so I was diligent not to waste them.

When I first begun writing, I did not believe in my ability to continually generate ideas and was certain it was only a matter of time before I dried up.

Which is why I found it so difficult to let go of my first novel.  I was not sure I would have another idea.  I clung to that crazy monster for too long, wasting hours and days of my writing life trying to hold it together; trying to save the good parts and glue together the worst of it.

I knew I NEEDED A BETTER IDEA but I was not sure one would come to me.

To put it simply, I was very scared.

It wasn’t until I finally set that monster aside (I cannot even bring myself to say it’s name any more) that more ideas started to bloom.  It wasn’t until I made space in my mind more thoughts and inspiration arose.

Donald J. Treffinger wrote these four basic guidelines on PREPARING CREATIVE AND CRITICAL THINKERS.

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What is Holding You Back?

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“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.”  ― C. JoyBell C.

A Fear of Success.

Have you ever heard of this?  Apparently I have it.  I was sitting around last night doing a funny test online, when I suddenly found out that I have a fear of Success.  The following is my result.

Your Result:

Fear of Success

You’re fairly confident in your abilities, but you balk at the pressure of maintaining success once you have it. You know that your achievements will breed higher expectations, and you worry that you won’t be able to meet them. You may even be experiencing what psychologists call impostor syndrome, the fear that those around you will discover you’re not really as talented or competent as they think. People who fear success often credit their achievements to circumstances rather than to their talent and other assets. The key for these people is to accept responsibility for their accomplishments.

 It turns out a fear of success is more complicated and difficult to cure than a fear of failure.

Being a failure is easy.  When you fail, everyone is nice to you, even if they think you’re stupid.  Failing is comfortable.  Your life will not change in any way if you try something new and fail.  When you fail, everything will stays the same.  Everyone rallies around the person who can’t get his or her shit together.  When you are successful, people watch you, wait for you to trip up, scrutinize your spelling and no one will worry about you.  Successful people essentially get left out of the community circle.  Successful people are the ones who are called upon to help others, give advice, money, information, time, services for free…

I have these ideas about success that I have just made up -Pooof! – From nowhere!  Yes, I defiantly have a fear of Success, as you can see.  I made all of that up.  I don’t know what it is like to be successful and I won’t know until I get over this stupid little fear I have.  I am worried about I know nothing about.  A fear of success is far worse than a fear of failure.

‘Procrastination is the fear of success.’ Chinese fortune cookie

These are the Fears

I will have to out-do my success with more success?  Once you get successful you need to remain that success, right?  Of course – So if this next project works, then I am going to have to come up with another better project after that or I’ll be just like Harper Lee and everyone will think my more famous and more consistently successful friend wrote my dam book for me.

Successful people are exposed, criticized? Successful people are often in the public eye or being recognised for great things they have done.  Successful people are the ones that everyone else wants to bring down.   You have done it yourself.  I have.  I have looked at a successful person and been certain that I would have made a far better outfit choice or I would have stood differently. ‘How did she pick that dress I’m mean really?

Success will transform me into someone else?  My friends wont like me anymore because I will be different.  I am scared of becoming someone else – My partner fell in love with me when I was a very unorganized, slightly alcoholic, Art School student who never finished any paintings.  He loves me for who I am right now – Not who I will be when I am successful…Ekk

When there is any kind of change, there is always a fear of loosing who you are and what you have.  Instead os thinking as a change as a moving away from yourself, try to think of a change as you gaining more of yourself.  Image you are adding onto your personality, your skills, your achievements – not away from who you are.  You will still be the same person, just with new skills.

The truth is that being successful is probably easier than you think – For starters, you will have more money (If you haven’t picked it up already, I am talking about ‘Career Success’ not relationships or family crap)

If you can get by with not much money, as you have been so so long (as a writer I am guessing)  then think of how easy it will become once you start getting paid more or get publishing in heaps of journals.  J.K Rowling said it very well in her interview with Oprah.  Once she became a successful writer, she realised that she could throw money are her writing problems.  It was a relief for her to realise that she did not have to put up with writing at her kitchen table amidst the noise and mess of her home life.

So what can you do?

The Cure to A Fear of Success – Oprah –

Many of my clients find this simple exercise helpful: Think of a recent success—say, a new account that you won. Now make a list of the skills and qualities you drew on to win it—determination, intelligence, creativity, charm.… (If you’re struggling, ask a friend for help; others can often see your assets more clearly than you can.) Make this exercise a habit each time something goes well at work. Once you begin to see your strengths in action every day, you will recognize that you are, in fact, well-equipped to tackle whatever challenges lie ahead.

If none of that works – Just remember that you are only brave when you are doing something that scares the shit out of you.  Life is too short for first world problems …

7 Responses you might need as an Emerging Writer

The Emerging Writer, Writing, Defences

The Emerging Writer, Writing, Defenses Starting out as a writer can be really hard.  As you start to tell people what you are up to all day, there can be a number of different responses; not all of them good.

I have starting being a lot more open about my work as a writer.  I am now proud to say ‘work’ even though it is not my main ‘income’.  I used to get those two things confused but they are very different.  Career and Job and Work and Income and Lifestyle and Finances are so complicated and intricuate, that I no longer try and extract them from the other, as I once did.

I do ‘work’ as a writer and I defend my position.

Here are some common responses I have received after telling people I am working as a writer – accompanied with a suggested reply.  I hope they are helpful.

1.  …But you have never studied writing !  

The Emerging Writer, Writing, DefencesWell, you never went to the University of Arseholes and got your undergraduate degree in being a useless, sceptic, sad old looser but you seem to still be quite qualified!’

I kindly reply that I have not ruled out any further study, I am just establishing wether it is right for me before I commit to another four year degree, then I bring up my long list of university study and the years that both my bachelor degrees too me to complete and how they both lead me to nothing.

2.  You must have a lot of time on your hands if you can manage to write a book!

This response is often said in a self sacrificing martyrdom tone, as they tilt their head to one side and pretend to dream of a time when they too might have as much leisure time as you.  Don’t by into it.  It is a trick to make you feel guilty when you absolutely should not.  Kindly tell your assailant that you have just the same amount of time in your day as everyone else, you just choose to spend your time writing a novel.  It’s that simple.

3.  You will be around in the day time tomorrow, could you just…?

The Emerging Writer, Defences, WritingThis is not just an attitude people have towards writers but all people who work from home.  This ‘errand running’ assumption is based on a common belief that working from home is not a real profession.

There is an implied lack of social responsibility towards the writer, making you feel as thought you are in some way in debuted to those who are less organised or who have made poor life choices.

The post office is a common one… house chores, going up the street, a few groceries, or my favourite – registering their car.  Waiting for a bed to be delivered and getting keys cut for someone else’s house guest are a few of the odd jobs I have run for people.  I fell into the ‘help everyone out‘ trap for a little while before I realised that I hated doing shit for other people.  If you want to, that’s fine, but it’s not for me.

4.  Why are you going home so early, you’re not even working tomorrow?

How many times have I been at a dinner party in the last few months and had people question me when I tried to go home…(Well only once, but it seemed really inappropriate).  ‘But you don’t have to get up for anything tomorrow’ they said.  I was really hurt by this.  I guess what she meant was that I could start writing whenever I felt like it, but what it showed to me was a lack of understanding for how hard this work is.  There is nothing helpful to say at times like this, cause mostly you are too hurt to be funny.  Just remember that I know how hard it is for you – and so does every other writer out there.  And go home!  You need to sleep.

5.  But you can’t even spell.

This comment was both hurtful and informative.  I have since convinced myself that spelling is for editors and I am doing my best as an Australian to keep them employed and valid.

6. Don’t you have to hand write everything before it is any good?

After hearing from a friend about a writing lecturer who refused any work that was not first written as a long hand draft, I started to wonder about practice.  She was laughing as she mentioned it, saying that there was a lot of writing essays first and then faking a hand written draft later.  What a waste of time? I say.

Weather people like to romanticise their own practice or waste their own time or insist on doing things the ‘right way’, this folk lore of writing is another rule invented to exclude people who want to be writers.  The truth is that you just need to do what works best for you and be willing to say it, even to your writing friends.

7.  You still writing that little book of yours?

The key word in this question is little – like a hobby.  This is not even meant as an insult.  It is just a projection of themselves onto you.  That is how they view their own hobbies, dreams, or lifetime goals – as something small, insignificant and easily dismissed.

Don’t take it personally, it is just how they approach their own creativity.

8.  How do you expect to make any money from this?

The Emerging Writer, Writing, DefencesI am very honest when people ask me this question and sometimes it annoys them.  I simply answer that I don’t expect to make money from it.  I expect to end up with my well deserved $2000 a year and a successful career in hospitality.

But I also expect to be the envy of every person I meet who doesn’t have the guts to do what I did.  I expect to wake up every day loving my life and my career, satisfied that I am not wasting my time.  I expect to spend time with the incredible characters I create, in worlds far beyond my own existence.  I expect to find and connect with the most incredible colleagues around the country.  I expect to be respected in my own home.  I expect to not have to defend my choices.

I expect that one day I will look back on a diverse body of work with pride.

 

Fighting with my First Office

The Emerging Writer, Writing, Writers, WriteToday was one of the most fantastic and confronting days of my writing life.  Today I spent my first full day in my very first office.  It was incredible and hard.  I have four walls and two doors wrapped around my writing space.  I am contained within the house, undisturbed and alone with my work.

I have been dragging a trail of words and thoughts behind me for 18 months now and today I could finally place it all together and look at the pieces of writing that made it all this way.  Some parts of my work were lost or left behind, others are back in Bali from before I decided to write full time.  Ideas where torn up in a share house in Sydney and scrap notes of paper have been left in my mothers spare room.  A thought came and went in a cafe in Milton but somethings did make it, characters & times & spaces.  Today I had to face that mess and see what I had left.

I woke early and started the day by reading a little of The English Patient by Michael Ondaatjie as I eased into a day of writing.  I was naive to think that if I built it, the writing would come.  I could barely sit in there.  I stayed within the confides of the office for periods of an hour at a time, then had to get out.  I put loads of washing on, swept the floor and made lunch, being in there was confronting.  No more excuses.  I have always had a reason why I have not been writing too much.

It is my office.  I am sitting at the desk writing this post.  I cannot believe it.   The most important messes have traveled this whole way and made it to Merimbula.  I am stunned and excited and scared by it, and a part of me keeps saying ‘Your not ready for this‘.  I better figure out how to get ready pretty soon, or I will miss it all, cause it is happening.

 

 

My First Sydney Writers Festival

The Emerging Writer, writing, Sydney Writers Festival 2013

I realise now that this festival is not for writers… It is about writers but it is not actually for them. 

The Emerging Writer, Writing, Sydney Writers Festival 2013

Day starts here

25 May 2013 – It is a beautiful day as I wander from Circular Quay around to the Festival Pick up Point.  I am on my own, against my better judgement.  Both of my writing friends can’t make it, as one lives in Wollongong and the other is away with her husband.  I have my program in my bag, note books, lunch and money for coffee.  Here goes…

So I am standing in an enormous line of people twisting and snaking its way through the crowd.  A lot of this just feels like chaos.  I am not sure what I am going into, or if this is the right line.  I’d love to get some coffee before it starts, but so many people have lined up behind me I fear I wont get in.  Twitter is alive with #SWF13 activity… and it appears that everyone is having a better time than me.

So many people sitting around drinking coffee and reading their free newspaper.  I wish I knew what they knew.   I can’t seem to find the front door at this writers festival.  I cant seem to figure out the truth of it all.  Everyone seems to know each other and know where they are going and what they need to do.  As I stand in line, I see friends running into each other, students catching up and volunteers calling out to people walking past.  I thought that I would feel a part of something, but I only feel more separate.

The Emerging Writer, writing, Sydney Writers Festival 2013

Hiding on the concrete

I realise now that this festival is not for writers… It is about writers but it is not actually for them.  I could have brought SF down to hang out for the day and we would have had a great time together.  Had I come here with her, I would not now be sitting on the ground, beside an emergency exit being ask me to move out of the way.  (Which happened twice).

On the bus traveling home I was filled with an urgency to write all night.  I really needed that after the last few weeks.  Perhaps it was simply being in such a close proximity to people who have achieved what I am now craving.  I did learn a lot in the talks that I got into.  There was a fantastic dialogue about genre fiction writing – and a discussion about altering a book for an overseas market.  There was a talk on how it feels to have your work translated, and to give yourself up to a text you cant read yourself.  Throughout the day there were golden sentences that I wrote down and took home with me, excited about getting back to work.

 

Finding Unexpected Support

26 April 2013 –I was scared to tell people I was thinking of and trying to write a book.  I thought they would either tell me I was crazy and stupid, or question my motives and my qualifications and think I was a wanker.

The Emerging Writer, writing

Feeling the Love

The truth is that some people did.  And I shead a little baggage from my life.  The ones that didn’t offered me such a staggering amount of support that I find it hard to imagine getting anything done without them.  Now I can call people after 5 on my days off and tell them I have been writing and they smile and take it and we move on.  Sometimes I talk about it like its work.  And they now know to ask how it is going, which is such a nice strep towards normalizing the life that I imagine is coming my way.  I am so glad I told people what I was up to.

Creating Deadlines

The Emerging Writer, writing,

Celebrations

20 April 2013 – I have been doing a heap of writing at the moment.  My Fiance (I think he needs a capital letter ) is heading over seas for two months.  It has been great and I think I have a pretty good outline of where I want this to start and finish.  Now I just need to work on the middle.

At an engagement party over the weekend I started talking to a 96 year old woman, grandmother of the groom, who was finding herself a little put out by the fact that all her friends kept dying.  She told me that she was researching different avenues to fill her days.  It came out that she used to work a lot in English, teaching and editing.  I asked her if she would be interested in spending some time looking over my first novel.  She said she would be delighted.

We talked about a dead line for me to have the work ready.  She kindly asked that I not make her wait too long till she could read it, as she winked.  We decided three months would be great.

Shit – so here we go.  My first dead line – Fuck.

Am I too Old to Start Writing?

The Emerging Writer, Writing

Kate Morton

Googled Kate Morton’s age.  37.  What a relief, there is still hope.

Ps.  Love this picture of Morton looking so smart, chatting about her work.  Amazing.

Average age of a writer when they publish their first book – 37.

How many years were these writers working on their craft before their first book is published – Anywhere from 0 to 41 years.

The Emerging Writers Festival

03 November 2012 – I am considering this to be the first day of my new job.  Although I decided a few months ago to become a writer, I haven’t felt like it has begun until today.  Today, I felt the fear and the nerves of my first day at a new job.

Arriving.  So I am petrified.  Would not have gone if my boyfriend had not brought the ticket himself and personally driven me to the Writers Centre and kicked me out of the car in the rain with a brolly and handed me $20 for lunch.

So here I am, not a single soul in sight.

Idiot! I think I’m in the wrong place.

What a waste of time.

Oh wait – I am an hour early.  Fuck!  Outside in the rain.  Lucky I have a brolly!!  Hmm frown.

The Emerging Writer, Writing, Inspiration

The Writers Centre

The Festival Begins… 

So it does feel like the first day of my new job, only no one knew that I was coming and no one saw me when I did.

The Emerging Writers Festival is being held at Callum Park, a Historic area of Balmain that is also home to a Mental Institution and a Fine Arts College.

As I sat on that lawn I looked over at the Art School car park.  I had driven into that car park at least a hundred times; late for an Art History lecture, or a studio critique.  Everything feels so familiar.  I know this place.

It is strange to have arrived back here after so long.  It feels as if I almost got it right, this place, but I walked into the wrong door, and found painting instead of writing by mistake.  Now I must go back to this place and start all over again, as a beginner on her first day.

My Very First Day

In fact, I feel a tiny bit like a wanker.  I mean, who did I think I was buying my ticket, inviting myself along and calling myself a writer.  Particularly when I have never published anything and will probably have no future in writing, at least not a financial one.

I love listening to all the jaded writers talk.  They are so warm and angry at the same time.

I make a mental note – When I am a famous author talking on a panel at the Emerging Writers Festival – ‘Must try to sound a tiny bit grateful and wear nice professional clothes.’

 It is Thrilling & Horrible to be here – Inspiring & Depressing – Motivating & Alienating –

I ate my lunch all alone.  I don’t think I said a single word all day.  I was a true introvert.  I think I put my hand up once when the audience was asked if there was anyone who was at a festival for the first time.  My book is full of notes though and I can feel a quickness in my body to get home and start working.

What I learnt

  • I wanted to be a writer more than ever before.
  • I need to investigate about finance, money, superannuation & tax.
  • Writing will take a very long time, years and years, before I start to see results.
  • The results I eventually see, will probably not be in the form of Money.
  • The average wage of a writer in Sydney in 2012 was $11 000 A year.
  • That I will always need a part time job.
  • That most writers are bitter about most things to do with writing.
  • That telling someone your a writer is hard.
The Emerging Writer, writing, finding ideas

Festival Book

I also brought this great book, compiled from the Melbourne Emerging Writers Festival.  I wrote an encouraging inscription inside the cover to myself during one of the talks.

I need to come up with another way of explaining that I am a writer, without sounding like a Knob!

Can’t Sleep

Staring at my ceiling – cannot sleep.  Keep thinking of crazy ideas for what I can do when I am working for myself from home.  Everything seems so possible at night time – when you’re in a good mood that is.  My lover works from home too, so this will be soooo perfect.  We can hang out all the time.

Shit!  No, we will both be working!  I will have to actually work every day.  So much to do.  I will be in charge of everything.  Now I can’t sleep, have convinced myself that my plan is ridiculous.  Am trying to figure out how to return ticket for The Emerging Writers Festival in a few weeks.  Will owe boyfriend $80.  Don’t have a spare $80.  Problem.